Guest Post by Peter Dempster: A novel voting strategy for centrists

Peter Dempster asked me to post this follow-up post to an earlier one of his. Nicholas

A novel voting strategy for centrists

Vote 1 for your preferred party but then do something very unusual – Vote 2 for the opposing party, symbolically joining the major parties on your ballot. Make this the trademark vote of the Australian CENTRE, a demand for much less division and much more compromise in Australian politics. 70% of voters agree … political parties should ‘meet in the middle’. (Essential Poll, 18 July 2017)

If we can’t do this, how can they?

Either: Vote 1 for LABOR
& Vote 2 for LABOR

If you Vote 1 for a minor party or independent, consider joining the major parties further down your ballot, say, at 2+3 or 3+4.

CENTRE votes will be detected in poll results – polling station by polling station, suburb by suburb. Such that Australia’s CENTRE can stand up and actually be counted, not divisively assigned to one party or another as ‘their’ voters. Only 18% of Australians say they identify with either the left or right wings of politics.

Most importantly, CENTRE votes suggest a readiness to flip, a quiet threat to unseat the most divisive politicians.

It’s a symbolic vote but symbols are essential. Flags are symbols; hi-vis vests and school uniforms are symbols; hair styles and tattoos; handshakes and signatures; hugs and kisses. Putting the other party last, as instructed by each party’s how-to-vote, is also a symbol. But a symbol of disgust and mistrust, which is not what most of us want to say to each other; only 18% of voters identify with either left-wing or right-wing politics. So, on 18 May, let’s rally ourselves, come together, look around to find we are not alone, realise the strength in our numbers; proclaim the CENTRE from both sides of politics. It’s the start of a long road back to where we need to be.

It is important to vote CENTRE for the Senate, not just the House of Representatives. There is an exhaustive reporting of Senate preferences, such that the CENTRE vote can be fully documented.

The Senate ballot paper can be challenging. If you need a cheat sheet in the polling booth, you will find how-to-votes at  There are always three: one each for those who Vote 1 LABOR, those who Vote 1 LIBERAL/NATIONAL, and those who vote minor party or independent. All can adopt some version of the CENTRE vote, declaring what they have in common, not just how they differ.

Then what happens?

The CENTRE’s objective is to establish a political audience and constituency that is neither left wing nor right wing. Such that pollsters take an interest in what CENTRE voters think, rather than assign us to a party – LABOR, LIBERAL, GREEN and so forth. Political journalists do more stories that interest the CENTRE, focusing on the pre-selection, behaviour and abilities of individual politicians in respect of … meeting in the middle. Politicians better understand they must appeal to the CENTRE, most importantly, by creating non-partisan processes and institutions to resolve the many difficult issues that we face. Thus, a rejuvenated, and depoliticised public service, genuine public consultation, anti-corruption commission, evaluator general, independent commissions to deal objectively with tough issues, fewer rollouts of half-baked policies a few weeks or days before elections.

The CENTRE may need a ‘big stick’ of the kind favoured by Teddy Roosevelt … speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far … to jointly threaten the careers of divisive politicians on both sides of politics. That requires more political innovation and will take some organising. Importantly, however, the CENTRE will have expressed a need felt on both sides of politics.

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paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago

I oppose this suggestion. It automatically favours a two-horse race view of the current elections, thereby affirming current politics rather than challenging it.

What is the opposite party to the Greens? Or the Democrats? Or Sustainable Australia? What combination would count as a vote for the center? Not clear, so the suggestion would serve the opposite aim of that stated.

If I had found this suggestion on Facebook, I would have immediately presumed I was probably looking at something cooked up by a special interest connected to both major parties (which includes most entrenched special interests). Or a Russian paid-troll.

Peter Dempster
Peter Dempster
4 years ago

A response to Paul Frijters

My suggestion has nothing for the minor parties and independents. That’s not just Greens, Democrats and Sustainable Australia; it’s also Bob Katter’s Party, One Nation and the United Australia party. The CENTRE should have as much regard for these as they have for the CENTRE – none. That’s how politics works.

However, there is something for those who vote for these parties. They may vote with misgivings, more in protest and anger than with any real hope of change, and welcome an opportunity to vote with purpose.

Because the CENTRE has much to offer, assuming democracy is about cutting a deal that most people can live with. The only deals that can endure are those between the centre-left and the centre-right. A deal is not a deal if it only endures till the next change of government. A deal is not a deal if built on the flimsy stuff of preferences, political alliances, campaign tactics, unsustainable promises and unenforceable laws. Admire the work ethic of political wings but remember Sisyphus.

The CENTRE’s problem is that it unstable, exposed on all sides to political raiding parties. Every political party needs a chunk of the CENTRE and, for ‘big picture’ purposes, political parties may be regarded as conspiring to split the CENTRE.

My suggestion is a way for the CENTRE to develop an enduring sense of itself, based on a kind of dual citizenship encompassing both the CENTRE and a conventional party. Identity is important. If you are trying to attract Fred’s attention, it’s best you know his name is Fred. Better still if Fred knows his name is Fred.

paul frijters
paul frijters
4 years ago
Reply to  Peter Dempster

it’s a free country in this regard Peter and I believe you mean well, but I actually do not see the two parties you wish to favour as being in the centre. They are not made up of reasonable committed citizens working for the best of all Australians. I see them as pretty close to criminal organisations. Your suggestion effectively elevates them and puts them above all other parties, thereby affirming them and their previous and current deeds. For my money, other parties are the centre, hopefully only still overshadowed by the incumbent duopoly that rules the roost at the moment.

So as I say, I oppose your suggestion.